Meth Effects: Immediate and Long-Term

Meth Effects: Immediate and Long-Term – Meth (methamphetamine) is a stimulant and a potent, highly concentrated drug currently categorized as a Schedule II controlled substance in the United States. Meth acts on the brain, causing a flood of dopamine, a neurotransmitter responsible for feelings of euphoria and energy.

About Meth Abuse

Meth is often created in labs using over-the-counter cold medications containing pseudoephedrine and ephedrine. Meth typically also includes several toxic chemicals such as fertilizer, red phosphorus, anhydrous ammonia or drain cleaner. Users frequently suffer from a myriad of adverse mental, emotional, and physical meth effects, including the following:

  • Permanent brain damage
  • Heart disease
  • Memory problems
  • Impaired thinking
  • Violence and rage
  • Psychosis

Immediate Meth Effects

Smoking or injecting meth initiates an immediate, highly pleasurable rush. Snorting the drug leads to feelings of euphoria within 3-5 minutes, but oral use of meth takes effect in 15-20 minutes. Although the rush doesn’t last longer than 30 minutes, other effects, including an exaggerated sense of confidence and an increased sex drive, can last up to 12 hours. Abusers may also encounter less pleasant meth effects such as stomach cramps, constipation, eye twitching, and severe mood swings.

Long-Term Meth Effects

“Meth Mouth”

Significant dental problems, including stained, rotting and broken teeth, are common long-term meth effects. This condition, known as “meth mouth,” is the result of decreased saliva production, poor hygiene, poor diet and compulsive teeth clenching and grinding.

“Crank Bugs”

Meth users can also experience the sensation of bugs crawling under the skin. As a result, the itching and picking at the skin caused by these imaginary bugs produces inflamed open sores.

Dramatic Weight Loss

Because meth use suppresses appetite, then can lead to severe weight loss, sometimes to the point of malnutrition that causes users to appear sick, haggard, and older than they are. It’s not uncommon for meth users to become isolated, remaining at home so that friends and family won’t see the radical changes in their appearance.


Because meth is so potent, use of the drug brings on chemical changes, causing the brain to require more of the drug to feel normal (this is known as tolerance, see below). Even ruminating about the pleasant feelings and emotions induced by meth use can release dopamine and instigate powerful cravings. Many former users experience cravings for months after drug use has stopped.


According to DSM-IV Substance Dependence Criteria, tolerance is characterized by a need for increasing amounts of a drug to feel the desired effect, or a gradually diminished effect that results from consistent use of the same amount. Also, the National Institute for Drug Abuse (NIDA) reports that some long-term meth users may lose the ability to feel pleasure without using meth, which results in increased drug use and higher tolerance.


The American Psychiatric Association describes dependence as “a pattern of substance abuse that leads to significant impairment or distress.” Chemical dependence occurs along with prolonged drug use that results in the body growing accustomed to the drug’s presence and becoming less able to function properly without it. The time it takes to develop a meth dependency can vary, although frequent meth abusers and intravenous drug users become dependent much sooner. Most users exhibit symptoms of dependence within 4-6 weeks, and some report developing a powerful dependence after just a single use.



As dependence increases and the body continues to require more meth, users encounter severe withdrawal symptoms when they stop using the drug. The earliest symptoms often include strong cravings and feelings of hopelessness, apathy, depression, and suicidal thoughts. Withdrawal symptoms also include:

  • Impaired memory and concentration
  • Mood swings
  • Anxiety
  • Irritability
  • Headaches
  • Aches and pains
  • Sleeping problems
  • Increased appetite
  • Hallucinations
  • Diminished sex drive
  • Lack of energy
  • Distorted thinking and paranoia

How Meth Addiction Destroys Lives

Meth addiction can lead to many legal issues for the user. The problems originate from obtaining and using the drug and may also result from the paranoia, violence, and rage that are often associated with meth use. Meth users often find themselves in legal trouble for theft, sales and distribution of a controlled substance, assault and battery, manufacture of meth and allowing a child to be present in a location where meth is being made. Most are felonies punishable by jail or prison time and steep fines. However, legal issues are only one cause of life-changing financial problems for meth users. While meth is a relatively inexpensive, frequent drug, users often spend a great deal of money to maintain the habit. Many meth addicts will lose their jobs and are much less likely to find further employment if convicted of a meth-related crime. A loved one’s meth use often burdens family members and partners, and this puts a great deal of stress on familial and social ties. Children can be negatively and permanently affected by a parent’s meth use. Friendships are strained or destroyed when meth users ignore old friends in favor of new, meth-using companions.

Treatment for Meth Addiction

Meth addiction is an astonishingly destructive disease that can cause extensive damage to the body and mind, resulting in serious health problems, mental illness, and even death. Those persons addicted to meth are urged to participate in a long-term addiction treatment program on an inpatient, partial hospitalization, or outpatient basis. Our center offers integrated, evidence-based services that include behavioral therapy, psychoeducation, individual and family counseling, group support, and more. We employ compassionate medical professionals with expertise in addiction who provide clients with the support and tools they need to succeed at recovery and experience longstanding wellness and sobriety. We can help you restore sanity to your world and reclaim the fulfilling life you deserve! Contact us now to find out how! Related: How to Identify Drug Overdose Symptoms

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